Last summer, Tracy Morgan was involved in a multi-vehicle accident that gave him a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and killed his friend and comedy writer, James McNair. At least one other passenger was taken to the hospital in critical condition. The limo bus that was carrying Morgan and six others was hit by a truck when it failed to stop in time as it approached slow highway traffic. The truck hit the limo bus from behind, sending it crashing into other vehicles before tipping over on its side.
Since the accident, Morgan has been undergoing therapy to get well and attempt to get back to where he was physically and mentally before the accident. This past November, his lawyer said:
“He’s fighting to get better, and if there’s a chance for him to be back to the Tracy Morgan he once was, he’s going to try to do that. But we just don’t know because of the severity of the injuries that he sustained and the fact that he had such a severe brain injury.”
As many people with a loved one who has sustained a traumatic brain injury know, sometimes you have to accept the fact that there might be a “new normal.”
Morgan’s lawyer went on to say:
“When you have a traumatic brain injury it takes a very long time to find out how you’re going to do and how much you’re going to recover. You just don’t know. So that’s where he is. He’s still fighting and trying to live his life at the same time and trying to get better, and he’s just not better. We’re hoping and praying to get him back to where he was. But the jury’s out.”
Learning What to Expect
When you have a loved one who has sustained a traumatic brain injury, it is important to know what commonly happens to someone after such a serious, life-changing accident. The more information you can get and the more you can learn, the sooner you can come to terms with what life might be like moving forward. It is important to know that no two people respond to a brain injury exactly the same way. Recovery time can vary greatly, and some will progress further than others.
Many times after a TBI, a person will be in coma, often medically induced. It can take days or weeks for the person to come out of the coma. A period of confusion and disorientation often follows. A person’s ability to pay attention and learn stops, and agitation, nervousness, restlessness or frustration may appear. Sleeping patterns may be disrupted. The person may overreact to stimulation and become physically aggressive. This stage can be disturbing for family because the person behaves so uncharacteristically.
Some days will be better than others. It is common to see inconsistent behavior in the person. For example, a person may begin to follow a command (lift your leg, squeeze my finger) and then not do so again for a time. This stage of recovery may last days or even weeks for some. In this stage of recovery, try not to become anxious about inconsistent signs of progress. Ups and downs are normal.
Most likely, Morgan has experienced some degree of these symptoms.
Steps Toward Recovery
Regaining physical mobility is often the first part of recovery from traumatic brain injury. Morgan sustained broken ribs and a broken leg along with his brain injury. It has been reported he is now walking with a cane.
Broken bones will heal eventually, but it is still too soon to know if Morgan will regain his ability to make people laugh or to appear on television and in movies. Everyone who knows him along with millions of fans hopes for the best for one of America’s funniest men.
Learning to Cope with Changes
Friends and family of people who experience TBI often have many questions about how their loved one will recover. There are several reasons that make it difficult to answer these questions.
First: brain injury is a relatively new area of treatment and research. We have only begun to understand the long-term effects in patients one, five, and ten years after injury. Also, brain scans and other tests are not always able to show the extent of the injury, so it is sometimes difficult early on to fully understand how serious the injury is. The type of brain injury and extent of secondary problems like brain swelling varies a great deal from person to person.
After sustaining a TBI, there are often changes that affect many areas of a person’s life. These are typically grouped into three major categories: physical, cognitive and emotional/behavioral.
Physical changes may include:
- Muscle coordination problems
- Full or partial paralysis
- Persistent headaches
Cognitive changes could include:
- Difficulty communicating
- Memory problems
- Difficulty learning new things
Emotional changes can sometimes mean:
- Difficulty with social skills
Most likely, Morgan has experienced one or more of these changes since his accident.
People often change in a number of ways after a serious brain injury. However, the human brain is a magnificent and mysterious organ and miraculous recoveries do take place. Here’s hoping we see Tracy Morgan on stage or on TV again to make us laugh and to show us he has made a full recovery.
Get the Help You Need
If you or someone you love who has sustained a traumatic brain injury, call the attorneys at the Brain Injury Law Center or fill out the contact form on the right-hand side of this page.